The problem of problem

Do you have a problem with gravity?

Because if it is not actionable, it is not really a problem, is it?

Except actually, you can relocate the earth’s orbit and pull that off. That just really hard.

Perhaps being angry and getting stuck by gravity (pun intended) is a choice.

We all have gravity problems. Our upbringing, where we are born, and ageing.

The easy part is to choose the ONE gravity problem to work on. The hard part is letting go (at least for now).

Making money and making art

We don’t need to look very far to realise that the relationship between making money and making art isn’t what you might have guessed.

Enter an art gallery and you’ll be outraged at the price tag of paintings that a 7 years old could do. And yet many of your talented artist friends are starving.

In fact, making money and making art are unrelated skills.

So, let’s say you are really good at Origami. The problem is there’s no demand for Origami. You could spend years making the most beautiful Origami swan and trying to persuade people to pay you $10,000. It’s an uphill battle.

But it turns out that you can use Origami as a problem-solving technique. When your hands are busy with paper, your brain is freed up to be creative. Then, you can realise that really expensive meeting take place where people sit around a table, wasting time and money trying to brainstorm stuff. And maybe you could become a facilitator of those meetings, using origami as a tool to help people get tactile when they’re trying to solve a problem that’s not tactile. You’ll make a living still doing your art – doing it in a totally different way.

One way is to make better art. But what would happen if instead, we spend it on making people feel better?

Free-range teaching

It’s entirely possible to teach without doing or making mistakes. We memorise formulas, regurgitate recipes, and recite entire piano melodies.

Yet the lessons that we carry around today are the most painful ones.

It turns out that once we know the answer, we stop asking. We stop wondering about the colours, the materials, the process and the uses in a different situation. How does this relate to that?

Free-range teaching is the act of giving questions, to show possibilities and to sit with the tension of knowing the answers.

“If the cafe doesn’t succeed in 6 months, what will do about it?”
“What about the people who don’t read the instruction?”
“What are the pros and cons of grandma adopting crypto-currency?”

As we go about helping others level up, we have the option to decide if it is a lesson is worth understanding. If it’s worth the struggle before something clicks.

It might be convenient to give the answer but when a new complex problem shows up, then don’t expect someone to out-perform google.

The alternative is an inconvenient way of teaching, free-range.

Where do you find passion?

If Marco Polo were to be brought back to life, he might be out of a job knowing that Google has mapped out the world. It would be impossible to make a living with his passion for exploring and uncovering new continent.

Similarly, the switchboard operator, bowling alley pinsetter and the beloved milkman would be devastated to know that they would be out of a job too.

And what if we go back in time?

Supposedly if we brought our passion for coding, photography and F1 racing to the days of being a cavemen. These passions could not have existed, let alone saving us from the sabertooth tiger.

So, where did passion come from?

My guess is that the reason it’s our passion project isn’t that we were born to do it. It’s just that you thought it was going to work. And your real passion is to do something that works.

It works to afford your rice and beans, the respect from the people you look up to and forward motion in alignment to your utmost potential. And more importantly so, to stretch you in a way that feels like you’re dancing at the edge of failure.

Passion is perhaps a line weaving through of all the things that we want. A solution that works.

For passion or for money?

Steve Jobs might have broken a lot of hearts but it not his fault.

The other day, I went for a meeting in a big building. As I approached, the guard opened the door and greeted me. I asked for direction. Then I went up to meet the head of this big company. Now, the guy who is upstairs had a way bigger paycheque than the guard. But he was a little cranky and a bit bitter.

The interactions with the guard were some of the best interactions I’ve had all day. He was positive. He’s open for connecting. He wanted to solve problems. So, the next day, I baked some cookies and handed it to him. He was stunned and surprised.

It turned out that he loves pottery, but pottery is not the only thing he loves. He also loves people, engaging with people, solving problems and bringing kindness. He’s just not selling pottery for a living.

The point is this. Just because your passion doesn’t make you money, it doesn’t mean that you need to sell your soul to the devil. There are many in-between. Find a job that pays the bills. Clock in, do your best and clock out. A tuition teacher, a barista, a nanny or even a guard.

Don’t think that you’re not allowed to pursue your fascination with colours and textures, or your fascinations with music and theatre. You have the time in between the job. Don’t let go of this incredibly fierce self-accountability for you to recognise that you’re in control of all of those things.